Welcome to Tunisia, “Mahrahabba (welcome) You are not tourist here, you are our guests, you are family.” Right hand pats the heart three times, as the man in the red checkered scarf looks deep into my eyes. I wonder if he is hoping for a large tip.
Ancient roman ruins abound in this country, as do artifacts from generations since. Coming from Canada, where anything over 200 years old is considered ancient, I can hardly fathom the large stone blocks fashioned into the massive amphitheatre that held up to 35,000 spectators in the third century. “The monument of El Jem is one of the most accomplished examples of Roman architecture of an amphitheatre, almost equal to that of the Coliseum of Rome.” (Unesco World Heritage -El Jem.)
What was it like to live in ancient Roman times? … I could only imagine as we viewed the arena. The gates of life and death were pointed out to us at a previous site, as the guide explained how the animals, prisoners, and gladiators were brought into the arena, likely to face their final battle … they may have been killed in the colosseum, but apparently were not devoured in the presence of the audience … that surprised me, but perhaps that was something offensive to some of the more sensitive members of the audience?
What was it like? And what is it like to live in this transitioning country today? I have not been here long enough to answer that question. I am taking it all in. Tunisia has been described as post revolution—in fact today is the anniversary date of the revolution. When speaking with some of the locals, I ask through a translator, how has this revolution impacted the ordinary person. Many say they have not seen any benefits yet, as prices have risen and unemployment has increased.
I sit with my daughter, we have been invited to taste zagoo-goo, a special dessert made for the prophet’s birthday. (Two holidays fall in sequence: the prophet’s birthday on Monday, and the revolution anniversary the next day.) The dessert is made from a paste of ground nuts and a creamy thin overlaying. To my surprise it is not as sweet as it looks—it looks like it should be chocolate pudding with whip cream, decorated with sprinkles.
Two months ago, this neighbour serving zagoo-goo asked my daughter: “What is it like to live with love?”
A profound question.
What is it like to live with love? The question haunts me, it speaks of the deepest longing we have as a human being. For the lady, it was equated into the love of her husband … but it seemed to go deeper. This country is enchanting, the mix of ancient and modern, and yet the eternal question …
What is it like to live with love?
(Photos by Jocelyn)